5. The Antiques Dealer, Isfahan, Iran


While wandering around soaking in the beauty of the wondrous Naqhshe-e-Jahan square, a masterpiece of Safavid art and architecture in Isfahan, I entered a little shop which could be Aladdin’s cave indeed. Here was a gentle, warm ‘Aladdin’ selling everything of antique or vintage Persian from exquisite glass, brassware painted papier-mache objects, calligraphy on old papyrus, Persian miniatures and rare pages of illustrated scenes for stage plays. His cap indicated he was a Sufi and when asked, he recited a lovely quartet of the great Sufi poet Rumi. I could not understand the words but promised myself to read the poem.

This ‘Aladdin’ then gestured towards a faded black and white, dust- covered photograph on the wall. He pointed to himself as he was more than half a century ago- a proud member of the Olympic medal- winning Iranian wrestling team of 1952 !

Centuries before the Islamic Republic or even Islam itself, Persian athletes called Pahlwans fused spirituality and strength training in wrestling and weightlifting practice called Varzesh-e-Bastani which simply translates as “ancient sport”

Varzesh-e-Bastani is traditionally practiced even to this day in   buildings called   Zoorkhaneh, which means “home of strength”. Archaeologists have traced them to the Mithraic era of the first through fourth centuries CE  in honour of the Persian God Mithras. The cult of Mithras, in fact, was adopted by the Romans before being displaced by Christianity.

I was told when I witnessed one such athletic demonstration in a Zoorkhaneh that some of the pre-exercise chants and   ritual movements performed by the Pahlwans reflect ancient Mithraic roots


Original:  Oil on canvas ; 12 x 16″  (305 x 410mm) ; framed

Limited Edition Print : Available as Giclee print on finest quality paper or  canvas. International shipment

Sizes available: 8 x 12″(203 x 305 mm); 12 x 16″(305 x 410mm); 18 x 24″(457 x 610 mm); 24 x 32″ (610 x 813mm)

For list of prices, details of paper or canvas and pigments used,  please get in touch via contact form

Will post rolled up  in  a tube with Certificate of Authenticity, number of the print and artist’s signature.